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Archive for August, 2008

 

Vieux la Prairie (www.maison-laprairie.com)

Vieux la Prairie (www.maison-laprairie.com)

Today we passed through La Prairie to have a quick look. The town is on the bank of the Saint Laurent just east of Brossard. The old centre is quite pretty with a few shops, the rest is standard strip malls. We saw some suburbs that looked pretty good, very similar to Brossard, although we noticed that the gardens seemed slightly less well kept than those of Boucherville.

 

Another item of note was the market that looked really interesting on Chemin Saint-Jean

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We have nothing but praise for the insurance broker who found us car insurance. It’s harder to get insurance in Québec without a Québec drivers licence. Most companies won’t consider you. So it was a job well done by our broker who was personally recommended by a friend in Belgium.

If you’re looking for car or home insurance we’d recommend contacting Nathalie or Michael at:

Assurances N Bourgon: 

1710 Route 138,

Godmanchester

Qc J0S 1H0

Tél.: 450.264.6166

Fax: 450.264.2944

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Looking for a car in Québec is pretty easy – if you’re looking for a second hand car go to autos123.com and you can see most of the dealer based market there. Once we’d decided what we wanted, we found a dealer with a good selection of models and went to visit.

So we arrived at Mazda Longueuil, looked over the vehicles with the sales rep, Jonathan Lasnier, were happy with the car, but went away to think about it. We returned about three times to finally choose the car we wanted, Jonathan gave us good advice although we had to double check some of the things that he said. Mazda has specs for its older cars on their Canadian website, so it’s good to validate as it’s difficult for a sales rep to remember the features of an older model. Jonathan was a very nice chap, told us about his family, holidays, steered us away from cars he felt were a bit dubious, seemed fine.

Once we settled on a car, negotiated a deal we were happy with, we gave a deposit and everything was fine…. except we had to see the Commercial Director to finalise the deal which would only take about 15 minutes…. and we waited, and waited and waited for over an hour until the children had to go home. During this time Jonathan disappeared from view and we ended up left in the middle of the showroom. This was the start of a pattern of events. Eventually Jonathan and the Commercial Director, Jean-Vincent Bunel arrived and said that they needed an hour with us to explain how things worked in Québec…. but as we had to go we should return the next day.

Of course, we expected that this double-act was some kind of sales trick to get us to buy extras for the car. Over the next few days we tried to get a meeting with Jean-Vincent Bumel and he didn’t return voice mails (always with clients!) and Jonathan didn’t seem to be able to get him to reply either. Of course, the idea of spending another hour waiting in the showroom with the kids was not appealing. We also wanted the serial number to have the insurance put in place, but they wouldn’t let us have it until we’d seen the Commercial Director! How many companies try to make it this hard to complete a purchase?

Eventually we manage to fix a meeting with Jean-Vincent, but of course he is late and we’re…. waiting. Of course he tries to sell us an extended warranty and security etching and…. we said no, of course. Had Jonathan asked earlier, then maybe we’d have said yes. Then after the meeting with Jean-Vincent we had to wait again for the car to be made ready, and then there was no one to sign a cheque for the SAAQ and we waited, and Jonathan disappeared… then we learn that the car is not fully ready as we’d been told earlier it was and we’d have to come back again… and there was still no one to sign the cheque.

So the next day we went back and they weren’t able to finish preparing the car and the cheque still hadn’t been signed and the only person who could do so was out, but he’d be back in 30 minutes… that turned into an hour and of course Jonathan disappeared again….

Eventually we talked to his boss Pierre Lascelles, who sorted out the final bits so the car was ready and we could register it.  

Then we went to the Société d’Assurance Automobile de Québec (SAAQ) at Place Longueuil to register the vehicle only to be told we were missing a piece of paper. So back on the ‘phone to Pierre Lascelles who, to his credit, sends someone to us to bring us the paper within 15 minutes. He then tried to help us register the car, but we couldn’t because we didn’t have Québec driving licences and our passports.

At some point Pierre Lascelles did apologise, but nothing from Jonathan. We do feel let down by him – it’s a shame as at the beginning of the process this blog posting would have been positive and Mazda Longueuil had a good chance of getting another car out of us…. shame.

I don’t want this to sound as though it’s any particular person’s fault. There is a process problem at this company and it’s clearly that the sales rep is not allowed to completely finish his sale from start to finish. If this was the case, I’m sure that Jonathan would have made sure that everything was done on time as agreed, but his hands seemed tied by the need for others to be involved.

Moral of this story: Avoid Mazda Longueuil, if you need to go there speak with Pierre Lascelles and be wary.

When you deal with the government, always take your passports and visa cards/paper with you!

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We left the US border with a crying baby and a hungry little girl, so finding a place to eat was the top priority. We had a really stroke of luck and came across a gem of a place that made the 2 hour wait at the border almost worthwhile. 

On the Interstate we noticed a sign for a restaurant called “Conroys Organics”. As we’re organic eating vegetarians this sounded like a top place to go – but frankly, would you expect to find an organic cafe in the middle of the country? Well no, but we did.

Conroy’s Organics is part deli, part shop were you can buy food to take out, or you can eat in. There’s a small play corner for the kids and an out door terrace looking over Conroy’s famous cows. The food was devine and being organic the fresh strong taste really came through.

I’d really recommanding coming off the highway at Beekmantown and visiting Conroys, even if you just want to grab a sandwich or wrap to take out and eat on the beach.

 

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Saturday we spent 2 hours waiting to cross the US border. There was a lot of traffic, much more than usual, trying to get the to Adirondacks for hte day. We arrived just before 11am and left around 1pm, so next time we’ll be leaving Montréal much earlier!

At the border we were asked the usual security questions and were then deviated to a reception centre where we had to fill out a green visa waiver form (one for each member of the family), repeat our answers to the same questions and pay $6 per person (visa, MasterCard or cash). It probably took about 30 mins to do all of this, the other 2 hours was waiting in line in the car.

We won’t have to do this again for the next three months.

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Ah the sun is shinning, it’s 30° outside, what is one supposed to do? Hit the beach – and in Montréal this means go to a beach on a lake. A very popular destination is just over the US border at Plattsburgh. So we (and seemingly the rest of Québec) headed down to Plattsburgh.

There are a lot of beaches in the Plattsburgh area, the best known is the city beach, but so late in the year it was closed. Most of the other beaches close after the Labor day holiday. We were recommended to go to Pointe au Roche and it was a great choice. 

Pointe au Roche is managed by New York state parks and is a domain comprising of a beach, trails and watersports access. This time we stuck to the beach. It’s about 50 metres long, on one side is the huge Champlain lake (named after Samuel de Champlain) and the other side is a large grassed area with many picnic tables and a shower and toilet block. Just behind this is the large car park. It’s really convenient, clean, the water was very warm and the air was warm too despite a few clouds. Above all it was a beautiful and calm location to pass the day. If youhave children it’s a super beach for them to wade on, build sand castles or even take some clay from the lake bed and be creative!

Here are some other beaches in the Plattsburgh area:

 

Adventure abounds in this six million acre park known for its majestic peaks, countless lakes and outdoor activities.
 
Discover this jewel on Lake Champlain with swimming, windsurfing, fishing, hiking trails and wildlife preserve.
 
Explore the western shore of Lake Champlain on this state park’s large natural sand beach.
 
Enjoy a wilderness atmosphere along with swimming, fishing, playing fields and nature trail.
 
Visit the largest fresh water beach in the United States.
 
This beautiful park offers swimming, hiking and biking trails, a nature center and mooring sites.

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Parc La Fontaine Park

La Fontaine park is the largest park in the Plateau area of Montréal, just a few blocks below avenue Mont-Royal. It’s quite large for Montréal and has a big kids playground which is as well maintained as any I’ve seen in the city.

The playground is split into two areas, one for kids up to 6 years and one for the older children. The younger ones get to fall onto sand and the older ones onto mulch (wood bark).

What fun they have there though! It’s also good fun for the parents as many Canadians are really happy to chat to you whilst you’re playing with the children, so it’s a social outing for the kids and parents too.

There are also two supervised paddling pools, called “Pataugeoires” in Canadian-French where the kids always seem to have a lot of fun and lets them cool off in the summer’s heat.

The rest of La Fontaine Park contains a couple of artificial lakes, one with a quite spectacular fountain, a theatre (De la Verdure) and sports grounds for baseball etc.

 

More information on La Fontaine Park, see the city of Montréal.

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